Four young tennis players are on their way to a tournament when they take a turn down a country road to do some nature walking. They come across a frantic fellow named Ofer who says that his sister Tali fell down a hole. Ofer asks the couples to lend a hand, with the men going to help get the sister out while the women stay behind to call the police. The men soon find that the sister has disappeared, while the cops arrive and are a little too touchy for the women. The girls also escape into the woods, but like their friends are now in the midst of the woods, where more than just pissed-off squirrels reside.
An Israeli horror film? Who knew?
I'm sure that many people have said that about RABIES. Conceived by the writer/director duo of Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales, RABIES has already garnered a few awards and plenty of attention to its credit. It's been a while since I've seen a "killer in the woods running amok" film, and given that I've been pulling my hair out trying to finish this one assignment for my finals, I figured that it'd be worth it to blow off some steam. What a blow-off it was.
For starters, the film looks beautiful. Given that the budget for this venture was around $500k, it's obvious that Papushado and Keshales have some real talent. Instead of the dark forest that you'd normally see with these types of films, this forest is full of colour and it's also daytime. Credit goes to cinematographer Guy Raz for that one. But the beauty of the scenery takes a backseat when the violence starts hitting. The mayhem in RABIES is not only plentiful, but nasty as well. It's all quick, but with a savage edge to it that also happens to be on the nasty side to keep your attention.
As for the characterization, the film brings us a group of well-developed characters that have backstory and depth to them. Yes, the characters are all horror standbys that we've seen many times before, but credit goes to the actors and the script for not only breathing life into the characters, but also giving them some wit. When things turn ugly, the film also keeps the tension high and provides for the savagery mentioned above. In fact, the title of the film is in reference to this savagery, and how typically good people can snap and delve into their dark side, with horrific results.
Problems with the film would be leveled at it's attempt to stuff itself with so many characters and give them time to develop, only for some to bite it and leave little time for much else. The film clocks in at an hour and a half, but that doesn't give enough time to have the relationships between nine character unfold while packing in the gore and insanity. Furthermore, the psychotic killer that I mentioned? It's like the guy's an afterthought, since he barely makes an appearance! It's all a nice attempt to have a horror movie with substance, but ultimately this problem runs the risk of leaving you feeling shorthanded with so much going on in such a small amount of time.
In spite of the problems with the characters, RABIES is a slick ditty that hits hard and looks damn good while doing it. It keeps coming and pulls no punches when it comes to brutality. I'm up for more of what Papushado and Keshales have next, since it's clear that these guys definitely have the smarts to go with their horror.
Video: Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the DVD looks great. The image is clean and sharp, with a good amount of retained detail. Colours are natural and bright, and really show off the production values.
Audio: The Hebrew Dolby Digital 5.1 track features a great mix. Dialogue is clear and distortion-free, with excellent use of the surround channels for the ambient sounds of the forest. There's also a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track in here as well, with English and Spanish subtitles.
Sadly, the only extra on the disc is the film's trailer. Given that this is the first ever Israeli horror film (and a film with some great technical aspects to it), you'd think that they'd put a little more into the extras.
Violent with some slick pacing and deep characters, RABIES is a nice debut for Israeli horror. While it pushes the line of cramming so much substance into a survival horror flick, it's sharp with it's edits and equally brutal with its kills. The DVD really showcases the talent despite the budget, but sadly misses out on any supplements that could've shed light on production.